Demonizing a President
The 'Foreignization' of Barack Obama
by Martin A. Parlett
August 2014, 253pp, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-3055-6
$65, £50, 57€, A90
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-3056-3
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

The appointment of a non-white American president sparks outrage for some even today.

This groundbreaking political exposé scrutinizes the motivations behind the unparalleled attacks on President Barack Obama that attempt to undermine his eligibility to lead the country.

The ascendancy of the first African American president was a watershed moment in American history. In response, President Obama’s adversaries have engaged in relentless and systematic mudslinging throughout his campaign and well into his presidency, “othering” him as a foreign and dangerous political figure. Never before has a presidential candidate been so maligned, by so many, in such a variety of ways—and yet won. This provocative study investigates the unrest behind the Obama campaign and election, and the controversial political machine that causes it.

Martin A. Parlett, himself a former campaigner for Barack Obama, examines the role identity politics and racialization play in the anti-Obama movement, shows how foreignization is the latest tool for political dissent, and discusses the ways in which the president has successfully utilized the “outsider” label to his own advantage. The book questions the popular—and often contradictory—notions of Obama as illegitimate, Muslim, Marxist/Communist, socialist, Kenyan, terrorist, and angry African American. Additionally, chapters trace political marginalization and race throughout history from slavery to Reconstruction to the Civil Rights Movement, concluding with the culture of distrust in the American political psyche since the events of September 11, 2001.


  • Analyzes the tactics used by political adversaries to undermine the presidency
  • Considers the mass of literature and filmography which proliferates narratives of the president's foreignization and offers a counter-position
  • Examines the rhetorical frames and motivations of Obama’s foreignization
  • Provides insight into the motivations surrounding Obama-era conspiracy theories, such as the Birther movement
  • Underlines the post-20th century emergence and maintenance of an increasingly polarized electoral climate
Martin A. Parlett is a researcher and communications professional specializing in political communication. Parlett worked with President Obama on his 2008 presidential campaign in Virginia. His published work includes contributions to Praeger's Before Obama: A Reappraisal of Black Reconstruction Era Politicians and Social Media Go to War: Rage, Rebellion and Revolution in the Age of Twitter as well as articles in the journal American, British and Canadian Studies. He received his master's degree from the University of Oxford, United Kingdom.


"It is a credit to Parlett that he manages to decipher and disentangle the numerous charges aimed at Obama in a manner that is comprehensible and comprehensive; his book’s argument is laid out clearly for academic and layman alike. . . . Some would prefer to take up arms. Yet in the end, the clear and sensible tone is what makes this book a triumph of reason over ignorance."—Review 31, November 1, 2014

"An excellent bibliography and a careful index make this a particularly valuable volume. . . . Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers."—Choice, March 1, 2015

"Demonizing a President is a remarkable book for both scholarly and general readers . . . a must-read text for those who want to understand a formula of fear in American political discourse that is at once historical and contemporary. . . . Demonizing a President thus represents a valiant and even audacious attempt to correct the persistent focal lenses that have repeatedly and maliciously undermined the forty-fourth president."—Presidential Studies Quarterly, November 1, 2016
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.
Accept All Cookies | Decline.